In undergrad, one of my professors, Chris Hedges, characterized a fascist leader as claiming hyperpotency and also hypervulnerability, such that they are both the only solution to the country’s problems but also such that they cannot tolerate any criticism.
While there are innumerable historical and modern examples: Erdogan, Mubarek, Kim Jong Il. In Thailand, a man was facing jail time for making a sarcastic remark about the King’s dog.
And yet, the most striking example – given its context within a democracy – is Donald Trump. A man who claims extraordinary powers, ranging from athleticism, business, intelligence, politics, charisma, general knowledge, and more, and yet he cannot bear to have those powers challenged – throwing tantrums at every slight [“Tantrumps”©]. And this mentality is by no means exclusive to world leaders. My favourite example of this mentality in the general population is men who claim to be in complete control of the world around them and yet claim to have no control over their own penis, such that they can’t be blamed for sexually harassing or assaulting a woman who is wearing a short skirt or who’s passed out on the couch.
Nevertheless, when a world leader is afflicted with this mentality, it is inevitably reflected in their governance style. Continuing with the Trump example: America is the best and strongest country in the world, and yet kneeling for the national anthem threatens to topple the American Experiment such that it warrants the President’s undivided attention. News reporting about Trump’s potential collusion with Russia is not only inaccurate, it poses an existential threat to the country, so the media is therefore “the enemy of the American people”.
Ultimately, this mindset is reflected in the policies of these countries. While countries around the world, which are presumably less great and powerful than the United States, take in refugees in droves largely without incident, Trump suggests that the greatness of the United States cannot be sustained if certain “kinds” of people are introduced to its population: undocumented immigrants, immigrants from countries listed in the Travel Ban, immigrants from “shithole countries”, immigration that is not based on a merit system, “chain migration”, etc. And, more fundamentally, not only could the United States not tolerate any regulation of firearms, the America would actually cease to be America if there were any regulation of firearms. As though the United States can survive anything – be it nuclear war or (totally-not-caused-by-humans) climate change – except liberal policies.
While I happen to believe that Trump’s projection of strength is nothing more than a facade made of porcelain, I also believe that Trump’s vision of America as the most powerful country in the world but for the fact that it is resting on a precipice from which he alone can save it is only a projection of his own insecurities. A belief which insults the resilience of America and its people.
A more accurate worldview might be that people are resilient, particularly when they come together as a community. And it was the United States which led the rest of the world to embrace constitutional democracy as the best way of building and supporting a strong community. But that democracy is fragile. It must be diligently nurtured and protected. It cannot be compromised to protect a charlatan.
Posted in: Progress